8 Genius Entertaining Tips

Are you hosting any guests this holiday? As I mentioned in the gift guide, I’ve been loving the magazine Bon Appetit, and their entertaining advice is especially brilliant. After dog-earring a bunch of pages over the past few months, I thought I’d pull together my favorite tips and share them with you…


Invite Some Party Starters
“Ask some close friends or good conversationalists to come early and be the first guests. This deflects the awkward early phase and allows you to get on with prep.” —Bon Appetit editors

Clean, Tidy, Clean Again
“Pay extra attention to your bathrooms, which should be well stocked and absolutely spotless.” —Bon Appetit editors (And don’t forget the plunger!)

A Candy Bowl is Never Overkill
—Julia Kramer, associate restaurant editor

Everyone Loves a Cheese Ball
“Because it’s cheese! And nuts! In ball form!” —Andrew Knowlton, the BA Foodist (Here are three great recipes.)

Yes, Shrimp Cocktail Is Still Awesome
“Though it feels like an indulgence to serve at home, shrimp cocktail is the definition of effortless. Put out as many crudités as you want; this will disappear first.” —Julia Kramer

Serve Fancy Chips
“Good kettle-cooked potato chips for the kids. Potato chips plus crème fraîche 
and caviar for the adults. Chips: They’re the easier, saltier blinis.” —Jenny Rosenstrach and Andy Ward


Let Kids Drink Bubbly
“Cheers! We pour Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider for the girls, Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé Champagne for us.” —Jenny Rosenstrach and Andy Ward

Have Sandwiches for Lunch for House Guests
“You’re making a zillion things, not to mention dealing with a house full of crazy people delightful relatives. Don’t even think about elaborate lunches, especially when all anyone wants is a sandwich. So stock up on the best meats and cheeses from the deli counter—thinly shaved mortadella, coppa, smoked turkey, provolone—and grab a Pullman loaf and some kaiser rolls.” —Julia Kramer

Thanks for the tips, Bon Appetit! Are you hosting any guests this holiday? What usually works for you? (We always have a cheese tray.)

P.S. 15 holiday hair tutorials, and how drunk can you get at your office party?

(Cheese ball photo by Bon Appetit)

  1. Shrimp cocktail reminds me of my grandma’s holiday parties from the 80’s. I guess many things make a come back!

  2. I agree with : “Put out as many crudités as you want; this will disappear first.”
    I personaly serve them with a cottage cheese sauce mixed with salt/pepper and fresh herbs: chopped chives, parsley and fresh mint.

  3. The idea of inviting some guests as the conversation starters is a great idea. Making sure the conversation starts in the beginning is always the most stressful part for me. Also a fan of the cheese ball. That’s a must.

  4. @unknown 12:02am: Chips would work if they’re the fancy, sea salt kind. I’ve had chips with “fancy” pairings in restaurants (like beef carpaccio, for example) and it does work. Not talking Lays Sour Cream and Onion chips here. You could also make your own chips quite easily… that would take the taste up a notch as well.

  5. Clean, tidy clean again…I wish restaurants would heed to this. If a restaurants bathrooms are immaculate than you don’t have to worry about it’s kitchen, non? Happy hosting in your nest!

  6. Thanks for sharing :) I especially love the idea of having something special prepared for the kids too!

  7. This is completely genius…

  8. These are fantastic! I agree with knowing the tastes of your guests. Every year we have a Super Bowl party and invite our friends whose son has a severe nut allergy. I go out of my way to make sure none of the food has nuts, and that the kid-friendly choices haven’t been produced in factories that also produce nuts. It’s a little extra effort on my part but they’ve told me time and again how grateful they are for it. It helps them to relax and enjoy themselves, which makes me feel like a good host.

  9. I’d love to hear if anyone has a plan or general advice for the departure of guests who’ve been drinking at your place. Am I the only one who worries about their trip home? I really enjoyed this post–the BA survival guide is great!

  10. A fun party trick can always help. I know how to saber champagne and have fun teaching others how to do the same. (It’s actually very easy and can be done with a kitchen knife!). The pictures (and video) from our parties are entertaining. :)

  11. Ok, I have to comment on a caviar and chips… are you serious? You mean real black caviar 300 bucks a 100 gr…? You are going to serve it with chips?!!! That would be criminal!!!

  12. Great tips! I love the one about inviting some people to get the conversations going at the beginning.

    When hosting a larger group of people, I like to have drinks out in a central place so people feel as though they can grab one as they want as opposed to waiting for the host to offer.

  13. As nice as it sounds, do not arrive with flowers that require a vase, water and arranging…unless you want to do it yourself and bring a vase. It’s a terrible imposition to expect the hostess to drop everything to find a suitable vase and arrange flowers (which is usually a very messy task). So don’t. Just don’t.

  14. My favorite tip of yours is sneaking out of a party without saying goodbye. But I guess you can’t do that at your own party.

  15. Always looking for tips to up my hostess game, thanks for sharing! (J’adore Bon Appetite aussi)


  16. I have always storedthe plunger in the guest bath to save someone the embarrassment. Glad you thought of that too.

  17. I’ve read it before elsewhere, but I really disagree with keeping the plunger in the bathroom(same for a toilet brush)! What are the (actual) chances someone will have to use it? It’s just SUCH an eye sore.

    If a pretty one existed, I suppose I could be convinced…

  18. I always think I need to have everything prepared before a party, but I love going to people’s houses and they’re still cooking. It makes everything feel much more casual and intimate, and you can pitch in (instead of just standing around) or open a bottle of wine for everyone. Sometimes I overthink hosting, when really, your friends just want to see you and have fun.

  19. All great tips! The chair one especially. And I agree with Mia Mia about the shrimp cocktail…yuck. :) It may sound a little boring but a great quiche (like Thomas Keller’s recipe) is always the first thing to go at our parties.

  20. I love the advice to have a few chatty guests come early to break the ice. I always take a few guests up on offers to come a bit early and “help” with the party, which serves to get people acquainted with each other pretty quickly. It’s fun watching unlikely friends bond over mashing quacamole and arranging flowers.

  21. This is an interesting list. I try to deep clean my home a few days before a party so I’m not freaking out the day of, then give it a refresh rather than spend hours that morning (when I could be going to the gym or something.).

    I have to disagree that not everyone loves a cheese ball! I don’t eat cheese and find it frustrating when I attend gatherings and find it in EVERYTHING. Can’t pick around it all the time.

    There’s something critical I don’t see on this list – I think it’s important to know your guests’ tastes. For example, dietary restrictions, non-alcoholic choices (including sparkling bevs), a variety of alcohol, etc. It’s such a bummer going to a party to realize you’re going to opt for water and crackers all night.

    The plunger in the bathroom is actually my favorite on this list. It seems kind of counterintuitive but makes perfect sense. I was recently at a holiday party and experienced an issue with the toilet – had to ask the hostess for a plunger, which caused a lot of stares (I only peed, I swear!). Luckily I knew most people in attendance and shrugged it off, but I would have been mortified if I was in a room full of strangers.

  22. haha, katie, thanks for your honesty :)

  23. Brilliant! I love the chips idea, caviar and creme fraiche makes a difference from salsa!
    Lucy @ La Lingua Italy

  24. Hmm! Mostly a great list, though I have to disagree on a lot of the food choices. I would never serve caviar with chips (?), and shrimp cocktails disgust me. Something about all those cold little shrimp piled on top of each other… ewwwwwww!!! Gives me the willies. And I suppose here is where I should also admit that cheese balls sound gross. There, I said it.

  25. em says...

    wonderful list! my parents always served my sister and I sparkling cider on new year’s growing up. we could choose the sparkling apple or white grape, and my mom would serve it in fancy glasses. even if we went to bed well before midnight, it was fun to feel so included and celebratory!

  26. I like the idea of really yum-o sandwich meats, cheeses and breads for easy go-to meals (and maybe a few fancy spreads like grainy mustard and pesto- oh and butter lettuce and heirloom tomatoes!)- Ok, I’m hungry now!

    Thanks for the post- such great thinking right before the holiday guests!

    P.S. Don’t forget the plunger in your bathroom so no one has to ask! I saw someone stick theirs in a flower pot- such a pretty disguise :)

  27. I heard a good interview on NPR with Dan Pashman of the Sporkful, who said that you should resist the urge at the beginning of the party to put out enough chairs for the first few guests. There will be one person who doesn’t fit on the couch, and that’s okay! It helps to keep the energy up and the conversation flowing. I loved this tip because I’m definitely guilty of moving every chair in the house into the living room during a party.

  28. GREAT list!!

  29. whoa i love this list so much!!! such good reminders. i love it – “everyone loves a cheese ball – because its cheese!” lol. too funny!!!!

  30. I find the best tip is to be super organized! Make lists and check them twice. I do most prep ahead and then the night of the party you’re ready to rock and roll with little fuss.